ASC Announces, Snubs Janusz Kaminski
The American Society of Cinematographers had actually scheduled to unveil yesterday, but announced that they needed an extra day. I had hoped that that additional time would have provided a bit of clarity to help them make some intelligent choices. My logic was both rewarded and ignored.
The nominees are:
Guillaume Schiffman – “The Artist”
Jeff Cronenweth – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Robert Richardson – “Hugo”
Hoyte van Hoytema – “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”
Emmanuel Lubezki – “The Tree of Life”
The big story in the awards community, as of late, has been the repeated snubbage of Steven Spielberg’s WWI epic, “War Horse.” A diehard Steven Spielberg fan, like myself, hasn’t really seen this as a problem for a few reasons. For one thing, the film was never really intended for grandiose awards intentions, but to me more of a family-friendly experience. Secondly, it’s quite simply not an example of Spielberg’s best work. I’m ready to sit back and wait for next year’s release of “Lincoln,” which I’ve been waiting six years for.
However, if there was one guild that “War Horse” did not deserve to be left out in the cold from, it was the ASC. This is a true slap in the face to some brilliant labor done by maybe the world’s greatest working cinematographer. I’d argue that Janusz Kaminski deserves to be on this list more than any of these other names. I know that there were some complaints about some of the daylight exteriors looking artificial and obviously lit, but that was kind of the point. Spielberg wanted this film to stand as an ode to 1940’s and 50s epics and westerns. He wanted it to reflect the work of guys like John Ford and Victor Garber. He didn’t want it to look like a documentary, but rather an oil painting, and he succeeded. Not to mention that the moving shots of the horse running displays some of the finest camerawork I’ve ever seen.
Another disappointing, yet a little more expected, snub was Wally Pfister’s low key, yet brilliant, work on Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball.” In this feature, Pfister goes back to his earlier work on film’s like “Memento” to shoot some beautifully drab and dismal environments. He also uses a technique that he has mastered (though first perfected by the above-mentioned Kaminski) of finding a wonderful medium between smooth and handheld camera movements. The baseball-playing scenes, in particular, are gorgeous.
As far as the actual nominees go, one would be crazy not to applaud and, eventually, put their money behind “The Tree of Life.” I certainly have some reservations about this film, but one has to give credit where credit is due. Emmanuel Lubezki’s poetic control over the camera, operating with such minimal available light, is absolutely awe-inspiring. The man is one hell of a cinematographer, having performed awards-worthy work in “Children of Men” and “Sleepy Hollow,” and will finally received his first, long-deserved Oscar in February. Put that in the books.
I certainly can’t complain too much about the nomination of “The Artist.” The blending of 1930s constraints with the imagination of the 21st Century is truly phenomenal at times. And unlike other films, they’re able to utilize the black and white rather than let it be a detriment to them. I was hooked by one of the first shots of Dujardin and his dog looking up at themselves on the big screen. The shot is magnificent and reflects the best kind of Orson Welles-fare.
I don’t really have many comments for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” due to my still having put off seeing it. Meanwhile, I cannot bring myself to hide my disdain for Robert Richardson’s work in “Hugo.” The cinematography is epic, grandiose, and absolutely uninspiring. Obviously, my lackluster response to the film, itself, influences my opinion here, but I felt the camerawork to be boring and impersonal. It really makes me miss the gritty and poetic collaborations between Scorsese and his former DPs, Michael Chapman and Michael Ballhaus. Return to your roots, Marty.
Wow, I nearly forgot to shine my praise down on Jeff Cronenweth’s masterful crafting of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” He and David Fincher are constantly proving why digital cinematography is the way of the future and taking it to new artistic depths. The cold and fierce look that the two collaborators put to use, here, is masterfully befitting the source material. I think it’s worth mentioning that the POV shot during the climax, seen from behind a sheet of plastic, is maybe one of the most terrifying I’ve seen in cinema.
The ASC announces its winners on Sunday, February 12th. Expect nothing short of an unstoppable “Artist” sweep to keep this award out of Lubezki’s hands.